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FBI

One Agent Explains Why He’s Leaving The FBI

"I am reluctantly turning in my badge and leaving an organization I love. Why?"

By Josh Campbell as originally published in The New York Times

One of the greatest honors of my life was walking across the stage at the F.B.I. Academy and receiving my special agent badge from the director at the time, Robert Mueller. After 21 weeks of intensive training, my class swore an oath and became federal agents entrusted with the solemn duty of protecting Americans and upholding the Constitution.

After more than a decade of service, which included investigating terrorism, working to rescue kidnapping victims overseas and being special assistant to the director, I am reluctantly turning in my badge and leaving an organization I love. Why? So I can join the growing chorus of people who believe that the relentless attacks on the bureau undermine not just America’s premier law enforcement agency but also the nation’s security. My resignation is painful, but the alternative of remaining quiet while the bureau is tarnished for political gain is impossible.

A small number of my current and retired colleagues have said that we should simply keep our heads down until the storm passes. I say this with the greatest respect: They are wrong. If those who know the agency best remain silent, it will be defined by those with partisan agendas.

F.B.I. agents are dogged people who do not care about the direction of political winds. But to succeed in their work, they need public backing. Scorched-earth attacks from politicians with partisan goals now threaten that support, raising corrosive doubts about the integrity of the F.B.I. that could last for generations.

When the F.B.I. knocks on someone’s door or appeals to the public for assistance in solving crime, the willingness of people to help is directly correlated to their opinion of the agency. When an agent working to stop a terrorist plot attempts to recruit an informant, the agent’s success in gathering critical intelligence depends on the informant’s belief that the agent is credible and trustworthy. And, as the former director, James Comey, would frequently say in underscoring the importance of high standards, whether a jury believes an agent’s testimony depends on whether it has faith in the bureau’s honesty and independence. To be effective, the F.B.I. must be believed and must maintain the support of the public it serves.

Do F.B.I. agents make mistakes? You bet. They are human beings. Because they are not infallible, the bureau is subject to a robust system of checks and balances, including its internal affairs division, the Department of Justice inspector general, congressional committees and the courts. These watchdogs ensure that personal opinions regarding politics, causes and candidates do not affect investigations. The system also provides an outlet for any investigator who suspects malfeasance on the part of the agency’s leadership to make those concerns known.

What, then, are we to make of the recent allegations of political bias at the F.B.I., particularly those involving two employees whose cringe-worthy text messages continue to threaten the agency’s reputation? While it would be disingenuous to claim that those two are not at least guilty of exercising incredibly poor judgment, it would be equally disingenuous for anyone who really knows the modern-day bureau to insinuate that the organization is plotting from within.

Furthermore, a congressional memo released on Friday accuses the F.B.I. and the Justice Department of abusing their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser. But every statement of fact included in an affidavit for foreign intelligence collection must withstand the scrutiny of at least 10 people in the Department of Justice hierarchy before it is reviewed by an independent court.

There is, however, a difference between oversight by those in charge of holding the F.B.I. accountable and criticism by politicians seeking partisan gain. Political operatives are weaponizing their disagreement with a particular investigation in a bid to undermine the credibility of the entire institution. “The system is rigged” is their slogan, and they are now politicizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process used to collect critical intelligence about our adversaries.

The assumption among confused and dismayed F.B.I. employees is that the attacks are meant to soften the blow should the investigation by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, lead to additional charges. However, these kinds of attacks by powerful people go beyond mere criticism — they could destroy the institution. Although those critics’ revisionist supporters claim their ire is reserved for institutional leadership and not the rank and file, it is the F.B.I. agent on the street who will be most severely affected as public support for federal law enforcement is sacrificed for partisan gain.

These political attacks on the bureau must stop. If those critics of the agency persuade the public that the F.B.I. cannot be trusted, they will also have succeeded in making our nation less safe.

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8 comments on “One Agent Explains Why He’s Leaving The FBI

  1. Well said Mr. Campbell and please continue to inform the people of our once great country. This torrent of partisanship will eventually pass but how much of our republic will remain? Resist folks and stand up for our rule of law even as it is dragged through the mud by one of the most dishonest human’s ever to be elected president and his crime organization of republican trolls.

  2. Yes, Curt, I completely agree!

    I think that trump believes his accusations of other people setting him up because that is what he would do if he were in their position. He was raised to fight and win at any cost, do as much damage as he can to anyone who crosses him or beats him — lie cheat scheme, don’t stop and don’t back down, fabricate his “evidence” from his lies in order to deceive people into believing him, build on that every day and gather more people into his pack of renegades to do the same, spreading his poison as much as possible.
    Absolutely must win at any cost.

    Couple that low life scum behavior with his mental issues — primarily onset of dementia. He knows it too and will do anything to cover it up, hide it, that is the nature of early stages. That silly little mental exam his new buddy Dr. Ronny Jackson performed – to prove he is not nuts – sure – well, if you heard his comment I heard today about “the last ten questions were hard” and said it was the part where he had to remember a few words he was given when they asked him to repeat the words – at various times they would ask during other parts of the exam – and he said that was hard and “not many people can do that”. I feel sure he did not succeed each time he was asked and I recognize the cover up with his comment of “not many people can do that”. And yet we have all heard him brag about his really great memory.

    He has these character flaws and mental illness and surround him with greedy repubs who know he has to be removed and who also know they can protect him if they ignore their responsibilities to the people and this country for just a little bit longer and somehow they can live with themselves for letting the damage be done to the men and women who actually serve with pride and respect. Paul Ryan et al are participants in the Obstruction of Justice. They should ashamed of what they are doing to America.

  3. If you think Comey is someone who can be trusted by anyone you should leave the FBI.

  4. I think it safe, being as this piece approvingly appears here (and was first published in the nation’s … ahem … “newspaper of record”) that everyone must assume the politicization of the FBI is being pinned solely on the 45th president.

    However, as oblique as the piece is–omitting for the most part, direct references to individuals–one can pretty much insert any high level figure from FBI, DoJ or prior administration and it will likely stand up.

    I was floored by his quote “… the former director, James Comey, would frequently … underscor[e] the importance of high standards ….” Does anyone not see the irony in this?

    Comey publicly admitted to leaking his notes from a confidential interview with the president–government records that were or were deemed to be classified confidential, by their nature–how is this consistent with his frequent admonitions on the importance of high standards? This is at a minimum highly unethical and possibly a criminal act.

    He usurped the prosecutorial prerogative of the Justice Department in announcing his decision not to bring charges against Hillary for what many, many former government officials would have been and were charged (Sandy Berger, former CIA Director and Army Gen. David Petraeus, Navy Petty Officer Christian Saucier, USMC Maj. Jason Brezler, and on and on), and we subsequently find out that he and those investigating had planned all along to exonerate her. How does that demonstrate high standards?

    Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin are granted immunity and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.) and Paul Manafort are charged??? God bless former Agent Campbell, and I thank him for his important public service–but if he thinks the FBI and DoJ are just now being politicized, I have serious reservations as to his powers of observation …

    • nice try whoever you are — you must work for FOX – straight off their shit news. #1, wrong on the classified confidential status of his personal notes. That was addressed off the top in one of the very first hearings and his personal notes were not classified confidential. Whatever is done today is a result of the entire truckload of crap this past year.

      #2, My only comment about the rest of your little story is you can chase Hillary until you die and she cannot hold a candle to the level of deception/corruption of the current resident of the WH. It’s really a laugh to compare Mills/Abedin to Flynn and Manafort who are as close to treason as you can be (the only thing missing is “during war”). You don’t know squat about Comey.

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